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Planning reforms are bad news for communities and environment

news release

Responding to government plans revealed today to overhaul the planning system, Kate Gordon, senior planner at Friends of the Earth, said:

“These planning reforms are bad news for our communities, climate, and local democracy.

“Ditching key safeguards, such as environmental impact assessments, and curtailing local democratic scrutiny, will only fuel fears that this is little more than a developers charter. This threatens a wave of poor development in the wrong location, and will undermine confidence in the planning system.

“We need more than tree-lined streets to deal with the nature and climate crises we face. This calls for a robust planning system that protects the interests of local communities and helps us emerge from the pandemic in a green and fairer way. It is hard to see how these ill-thought out proposals will achieve these things.”

Friends of the Earth has numerous concerns about the proposals. These include:

• A reduction in democratic accountability and public scrutiny by undermining the ability of councils to set local planning policies and determine planning applications. Under the proposals, the development management process would be ‘streamlined’ with automatic planning permission for schemes in line with plans.

• Delegation of detailed planning decisions to planning officers where the principle of development has been established. This fails to recognise the role that public, democratic scrutiny of planning proposals (especially large or controversial proposals) plays in ensuring decisions are fair, transparent, with the impacts fully considered. This will potentially lead to poorer outcomes.

• Further proposals to legislate to widen and change the nature of permitted development. The poor outcomes of permitted development are well documented, with homes in unsuitable locations, failing to meet basic standards or be in line with Local Plan requirements.

• The reforms restricts planning authorities’ ability to set local planning policies in line with the needs of their area and community aspirations, undermines the plan-led system, disempowering councils and communities.

• A risk of over-development in already overheated areas, and neglect of other places which might need or benefit from investment and development, and associated negative impacts on the environment and local community.

• Strategic Environmental Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment: the government proposes to consult in the autumn on simpler, faster procedures.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. Launch of Planning for the future consultation  to reform the planning system | Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

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